5 Tips for Buying and Selling on Facebook Marketplace

The past few months have been kind of crazy. First, I lost my job (because, ya know, the RONA). I found ways to occupy my time and thought that I’d be back to work for the last month of school. Well, that proved to be premature thinking. You know the rest. Second, my mom made the decision to retire a year earlier than originally planned. This led to the third thing: the decision for the two of us to move back to Houston. My brother and his wife already live in the house in the Houston area, so until I can get a job and a place of my own, there will be four adults living in a three bedroom house with three full sets of personal items.

So, we knew we had to make some decisions. There’s no reason for us to have three entire households of things in one house. Therefore, my brother and I both went on a selling spree to downsize our belongings to fit into the house comfortably.

Before I get into my secrets, you might be wondering, why Facebook Marketplace? It’s my personal favorite way to sell things, and here’s why. First, there’s no shipping involved if you’re just doing local meet-ups. I don’t know about you, but shipping is super annoying to me. Second, the messages go straight to your phone if messenger is already downloaded. Third, you aren’t using your direct phone number for contact or information. Fourth, it’s free. C’mon. Not everything is anymore.

Without further adieu, here are my 5 Tips for Buying and Selling on Facebook Marketplace.

Tip #1: The Posting is Everything. Honestly, I could do a whole post just on how your posting should look. Make sure you take good pictures of all important angles of the item (for instance, wall decor might only need one, but a table needs at least two or three). Make sure you’re as honest as possible in the post so that the buyer knows exactly what they’re getting. Nobody wants to show up to a meet and leave disappointed. That being said, highlight the positives. If there’a desk that’s scratched up but holds weight and has smooth drawers, then somebody will probably still want it. Most people buying used items aren’t expecting them to be perfect, just a good bargain. If you’re selling something like an electronic, make sure that you mark that the item is sold “as is” and that there are no returns in the description. This will help protect you from unfair accusations and hassles.

Tip #2: Measure before you post. I could have included this in the previous paragraph, but it’s honestly the biggest thing I’ve learned (the hard way) from selling on FBM. It takes a few extra minutes and might seem like a hassle at first, but trust me. You don’t want to answer fifteen inquiries a day that just have to do with dimensions. The dimensions help weed out who really wants your piece from those that don’t. People might still ask (because not everyone reads the entire description before they click on that “inquire” icon) but you can then send them to the description. Measure anything where size is an important factor: furniture, art pieces, and decor.

Tip #3: Post the highest price you would personally pay. Some people that are more money or business savvy might argue with me and say to post high and give people room to negotiate in a range that you’ll still get your money, but this is what I’m telling you has worked for me. You want to be fair to your buyers, after all. Treat them the way you would want to be treated. Buyers and sellers both get ratings on Facebook just like an Uber driver, and sellers with higher ratings are more likely to sell quickly. If negotiations come up (about 1/3 of my dealings have been negotiations) then use the same rule and don’t go lower than a price you would personally pay. If your goal is to get rid of stuff, you could even post it for free. However, I would advise against trying to sell anything for less than $5. If it’s worth that little, it can be donated (with some exceptions I’ll get to at the conclusion). Lastly, make sure to specify “cash only” or a currency application so that you get paid immediately. Do not accept checks or credit card numbers.

Tip #4: Moderating Messages: don’t feel like you have to do anything to make a sale. While I do love that the messages go to your phone, sometimes it can either become stressful or annoying. There are three main problems I have with messages themselves. (1) Too many too quick. Sometimes I post an item and within an hour I have five people asking about it. I try to follow the “first come first serve” rule. By the way, make sure to reply ASAP so that your potential buyer doesn’t lose interest. If you have multiple people asking all at once, reply to the first person and tell the others that there has been interest but you will keep them updated. If the first person hasn’t replied after an hour or so, I’ll move onto the next in line. Mark the item as “Pending” as soon as someone agrees to meet. This will cut down on phone “blow-ups”. (2) An item that has been posted for a while and, for whatever reason, hasn’t sold. You have a person that inquires. You respond, and they don’t. I usually wait a day and ask if they’re still interested. Sometimes they say yes and then don’t respond again for hours, only to pop up and say they’re ready to meet right now. If I can swing it, I bend to their wishes to make a sale, but I don’t go out of my way. If they aren’t on top of your messages, they don’t want your item that badly. (3) Someone constantly reschedules a meeting. This happened to me early on in my Marketplace journey. I had listed a couch as free (because I was moving–again). The same woman said she wanted it, made a meeting, confirmed the meeting, said she was “on her way”, never showed up, and texted two hours later with an apology and a reschedule–3 times. This went on for weeks, until my moving day came and I just had to throw the couch away because it wasn’t in good enough condition to donate. Nowadays, I don’t hold anything for longer than 24 hours, and I move onto the next person after my buyer hasn’t shown up for 30 minutes without an explanation.

Tip #5: Stay smart and safe. Sure, I still have some faith in humanity. But that doesn’t mean people don’t take advantage of it. When you schedule a meet-up, do so in a public, open area. I’ve been using the parking-lot of my local neighborhood Walmart for anything that will fit in my car. I only give people my address if furniture needs to be picked up, and even then we try to move it outside so they can’t case our house. Once I agreed to deliver furniture because the buyer offered extra cash, but I did not go inside their house either. In any case, meet-up, pick-up, or delivery, it is very important that you are not alone when it happens, especially if you’re a little lady such as myself. If you absolutely have to go alone, make sure it’s that meet-up at the public, open place. Text someone where you are and what you’re doing and check back in with them after the sale is made. I take my mom along as often as I can. Sometimes people are late, but unless I hear from a late buyer, I don’t wait longer than 30 minutes. Sometimes people want to bargain with you after you’ve met. Tell them it’s what you agreed on or no deal. If people show up without money, tell them to reschedule and leave with your item. Do not follow them anywhere to get money. While there are some scoundrels, usually people will swap you the cash for the item, say thank you with a smile, and leave. Don’t forget to mark the item “sold” so that nobody else inquires about it, and then give your buyer an adequate rating.

There are some exceptions to every rule. For instance, remember when I said not to sell something less than $5? The biggest thing we give away for free is furniture that we don’t want to leave on the curb. For instance, we had an antique organ that my late father was in the middle of refurbishing when he passed away. After eight years, we were ready to part with it, but we didn’t know how to get rid of it in a way that was suitable for such an instrument. It took two rounds of Marketplace postings but someone finally came for it with the intention of re-purposing it into a desk. Also, I had a dollhouse made from an antique kit that my father made me when I was a little girl. It was in decent shape but I don’t have anywhere to display it these days, so I had my brother list it under collectibles for a low price. A dollhouse enthusiast picked it up later that day. Both of these instances were helpful when I knew donating or trashing the items wasn’t an option.

Those are my 5 Tips (more like essay points, huh?) for buying/selling on Facebook Marketplace. I hope my secrets were helpful. Feel free to leave questions or comments down below, and I’ll be happy to answer them to the best of my ability!

P.S.: Don’t forget to wear a mask!

It’s Time For A Change

I’ve tried to start three other blog posts, but this one has to come first before I continue my stream of thought.

So, if you haven’t noticed, there’s a massive movement going on outside. I don’t want to ramble for too long. Frankly, I don’t see this blog post changing minds or influencing people. I already have a small readership, and I generally write for my own therapeutic reasons and not to take a firm stance on social issues. I’m a firm believer in two sides to every story. I want to be adequately educated on the subject before I jump right in with my opinion, and even then, there are always valid arguments on each side. I aim to be a peacekeeper and unbiased educator in both my personal life and online. All of this is the preface for the narrative you’re about to dive into.

George Floyd was killed about a month ago. At first I thought to myself, “What a shame, another Black guy killed needlessly by a cop.” Similar stories have popped up every now and then for the last ten years. It’s terrible, but how can we fix it? Police are police, after all. Many were quick to dig up the dirty pasts of the victims to justify the killings. I can’t say for sure what was so different about the death of George Floyd. I have a theory that the widespread lock downs triggered a lot of anxiety in the entire population–an anxiety of which the police are not immune. There were several other unwarranted deaths of Black men and women during the lock down periods–including Breonna Taylor, an EMT that was shot in her bed after working a shift.

Honestly, the event was out of my mind in a matter of hours. It wasn’t until I saw the news of the looting of the Target that I got more involved. One of my Black friends posted on Facebook “How is looting going to help anything?” And I commented, “It’s so frustrating! Two wrongs don’t make a right!”

Well. As you can imagine, people (that don’t personally know me) CAME. FOR. ME. I was strong in my belief that the riots were wrong and unfair to everyone, including members of the Black community. The ladies that responded in the comments accused me of overlooking the murder while I condemned the violence. I tried to argue that I wasn’t ignoring the murder, but rioting wasn’t an acceptable form of protest. I finally just deleted my original comment and wrote to the author of the post in a private message. I apologized for offending her friends and hoped she understood that I just didn’t understand why people thought violence was going to solve more violence. She replied some time later that she never even saw the comment or the responses but she knew my heart was in the right place. Meanwhile, I had written to two of my closest friends to vent about how these women had called me racist when they didn’t even know me. However, each of my friends (one white, one Black) argued with me until, at the very least, I could see how what I had said was offensive.

I decided the only thing I could do was apologize to the first girl that came after me. I wrote her a private message that she might have never seen (she never responded, at least) and then she and the other lady tagged me in more comments to say I was “dirty deleting” and was refusing to be educated. So that didn’t feel great. I guess that’s what I get for breaking my own rule and failing to educate myself before engaging in a discussion. After learning more about that the Targets of Minneapolis, I actually count it separate from what I’ll refer to later as “senseless rioting”.

Well, those conversations I had with my friends changed the way I viewed the entire thing. I wrote a post on Facebook to admit that I was wrong about my methods and beliefs and that, looking forward, I was going to do my best to strive for a change in the world. I shared a post from a friend who voiced her feelings as a white ally more eloquently than I knew I could. I became active on social media to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. I started to have difficult conversations with my friend and with my mom (who is not quite as enthusiastic for the movement so those were especially tough) and I have tried to educate myself on multiple matters pertaining to recent events. Below, I have listed my findings.

Protests vs. Riots: After having more personal conversations with others that attended protests and saw first-hand what the movement was actually like, I realized that real “rioting” (very different from “protesting”) was getting an insanely disproportionate amount of attention from the media than it actually deserves. I heard personal accounts from 4 different protests in 4 different major cities (Houston, Kansas City, Denver, and L.A.). The general description of the protests is largely the same. Thousands of people unite with signs, chants, and actions. They either march, sit, lay down, etc. with a speaker or two to help educate those that have arrived. (In Houston, for instance, the march was specifically to educate on what to do and where to go if you feel that you’ve been a victim of racial prejudice.) There were small “sects” (to borrow a word from my Houston friend) that would break off and try to start riots or raids on businesses along the marching path, but the masses of the protest would hold them back or refuse to be associated with it. In Kansas City and L.A., the story was much the same.

Police Involvement at Protests: Again, I am taking this information from first-hand accounts of peaceful protesters. Online (social media or news outlets) I had read that the police were being attacked at the protests and then retaliating. While I do not have any accounts from Minneapolis (as I know it is unique as being the epicenter for this whole situation), in the four cities I do know of, this was not the case. In both Kansas City and Denver, my friends said that there was no angry threat toward the police from the crowds and that they had mostly “uneventful” protests (except that my Houston friend said there was a moment where the police fired teargas into the crowd for seemingly no reason). In L.A., however, the story is quite different, painting a very villainous portrait of the police at those protests. I’ll link a video at the bottom of this blog for you to hear more.

Defunding the Police: After that first weekend of protests when I was talking to two of my friends (KC and Houston), I asked each of them the same question. What are we trying to accomplish with protests? One agreed with my personal statement. Awareness only goes so far and there has to be an end goal to accomplish, even though I had no idea what it would be. The other insisted that awareness would draw attention that would bring about the change we needed. Honestly, neither were wrong. Awareness isn’t nothing. However, I’ve found that many people (and not to discriminate, but especially people of a more advanced age) are already set in their beliefs. They don’t want to be aware, therefore, we cannot force them to be. Really, the movement is just obnoxious noise to them. However, when this phrase first came about, I was definitely confused. Like, are we just not going to have police now? As a history teacher, I know that the idea of police are a relatively modern concept. Society did function before the existence of law enforcement. However, I did some research this time (because really, that first incident didn’t help anything) and I discovered that it’s not about cutting them off. It’s not about abolishing the system. It’s about taking the budgets that we use for the police and take a cold, hard look at how to distribute the money to make our system better for everyone. Again, I’ll link a descriptor at the bottom of this post for you so you can see how that could work. Personally, I feel that at very least the bar of requirements needs to rise. Did you know that police academy is only 600 hours? To compare, a cosmetology licence is 1500. That statistic blew my mind. If you think those two things aren’t alike, you’re not wrong. But let’s compare cops to nurses. One serves and protects, one serves and treats. The requirements for a nurse are AT MINIMUM a two year degree. If you’re going to fuss about pay differences, fine. Compare them to teachers. One protects, and one educates. Oh wait, educators are also expected to be mental health professionals (I have transcripts to prove half of all ed courses are psych courses) and safety professionals (how many active shooter/severe weather/child predator trainings have you gone to?) and also, sometimes, parents. There is not a single teacher in any accredited institution that does not have a four year degree plus completions for all of these areas. Teachers have a full plate and then some.

Supporting the Police: The above being said, policemen also have a very full plate. They’re often expected to be all things to all people. “Defunding” them would be just as beneficial for current policeman, especially the “good cops”, as it would be for the general population–if not more so! Better training, greater resources, and sharing the burden doesn’t mean just “more accountability”, but it also means less pressure and healthier working environments for police officers. Honestly, if you think the system is just fine because there are more good cops than there are bad (a statement that seems to be more an opinion than a statistic) you’re denying a better system for everyone.

Systemic Racism and White Privilege: Systemic racism is another one of those terms that you really need to go do some research on before you do any assuming. There’s really no use denying that it’s real once you understand what it is. I’ll just summarize for you what I mean. Systemic racism is not powerful people within the system pulling strings here and there to make sure the black people remain inferior to the whites all secret-society style. It’s actually more of an unconscious bias that we’ve had for the past few centuries towards black people that has influenced the way they are treated as a whole. There’s a lot to unpack with this one that would take an entire essay in and of itself, but let me just use one example. I’m a white woman that’s been aware of racism and it’s wrongs my entire life. I was raised in a Christian household where we “loved all our neighbors” and even had more minority friends than white ones in high school and college. However, I was told to stay out of the bad, Black neighborhoods. I was told that the black school in my district was hard to work at, but was surprised to learn that there was less “crime” (drugs and weed) than at the other school. The only difference was in demographic and funding. I told my black friends (and students, I’m ashamed to say) that they didn’t “act” black because they were educated and refined. Okay, so that’s a few examples, but all personal to myself. Chances are, if you’re white and you think about your own life, you’ll see that the unconscious bias is definitely real. It’s not a conscious, racist mentality. It’s conditioning that we’ve had for our entire lives–the same conditioning that suppresses their entire culture to know that they are not equal to us. We associate Blacks as dangerous, uneducated, and violent. It wasn’t until recently (even after living in a largely Black city for a year) that I became comfortable with Blacks in public and didn’t feel any sort of paranoia. The first step to eliminating it is to be conscious that it’s there and changing your personal attitude. The fact that nobody looks at me and thinks I’m threatening just because of my race should not be a privilege: it should be a right. However, in this country, most minorities will always be aware that they come with a set of connotations that they do not dictate. This means that instead of a right, it is a privilege.

Statues: Okay, this seems to be less black and white and more gray in comparison to the rest of the movement. Yes, let’s bring down those confederate statues. If we really want to remember those people, we can put them in a Civil War museum or battlefield monument. The confederate flag, if nothing else (which obviously there’s a lot to unpack there that I won’t get into) is inconsiderate and tasteless. Just think about that. If you really want to think “Well, I don’t care about their feelings and it’s about my heritage”, I can see that perspective. It’s my heritage, too. But I’m also partially German and there’s gotta be a Nazi somewhere in that bloodline back there, and you don’t see “good Americans” waving around swastikas as part of their heritage. You don’t even see modern-day Germans doing that. Enough is enough. In the same argument, let’s keep those things in history books and in museums. However (here’s where people might get touchy so please just hear me out) I’ve heard a lot of arguments about somewhat non-related statues getting taken down (for instance, George Washington). We can’t nit-pick into everyone’s past. Did Washington own slaves? Yes, because every white man with land needed slaves. He was a bit demanding on them, but actually freed them in his will. Again, I will link the source. My point is that the confederate statues are honoring people that fought for slavery and economy over lives. George Washington was a leader that believed in equality and fairness, even for his slaves, although slavery is bad. We can nit-pick through every history of every face on every statue, but the truth is that nobody is perfect. We need to decide which causes are worth leaving up and down. However, and this is my response to people that ask, the “should we/shouldn’t we” statue debate is distracting us from progress towards our future. Once everyone starts fighting over statues, we stop talking about shaping new policies and systemic changes that will progress our society to make it a better place for everyone.

Juneteenth: HOW IS THIS NOT A FEDERAL HOLIDAY?? We get Martin Luther King Jr. Day but not Juneteenth??? Like, how can you even argue with this one? Ending slavery was not only a declaration of freedom (granted Blacks would have a long road ahead of them) but also showed the world that America had chosen human lives over their economy. (An act, by the way, not unlike shutting down our economy to save the lives of high-risk citizens to a novel virus). At the very least, let’s celebrate that we care about people more than money, shall we?

Black Lives vs. All Lives: This one seems to be the most polarizing, so I’ve saved it for last. I’ve seen a lot of political stances on each side of the debate. I had a conversation with my mom where I used these arguments. “If you say all lives matter, it means you’re refusing to acknowledge that black lives don’t actually matter the way society stands. It’s like there’s a house on fire but when the fire hoses show up they spread them across all the houses because all the houses matter.” And my mom said, “All the minority houses are on fire. By saying black lives matter, are we refusing to acknowledge the rest of the minorities?” And okay, it wasn’t a bad point. After all, Native Americans arguably had the hardest hit by white Americans, and regardless how you feel about Hispanic immigrants, Hispanic-Americans also face huge bias and problems in society. Asian Americans haven’t had it great historically, either, and the virus only fueled a whole new level of aggression towards them. The world is vastly changing with the whole LGBTQ community and the constant battles that they face on a day-to-day basis, not even including the pay gap that women are still fighting to eliminate. So, in conclusion, white men are the villains. Let’s set their house on fire so we’re all equal!

Just kidding, please don’t do that. That’s not my point or goal at all.

This is my actual point with this one: yes, all minorities have it bad. I don’t know that we can historically pinpoint who has had it the absolute worst. However, how often do we have an opportunity to bring about real change on a large scale? How often do we have the world’s attention where we can make demands and see them through? I’ll say Black Lives Matter, because the movement stands for progress for all minorities. This is our chance where, together, we can fight to end racial bias. It’s time for a radical change. If we succeed with Black lives, we will have opportunities to stand up and fight for the other minorities. Black lives can bring change to all lives.

What about the negatives? So, there are a few things that I don’t want to associate with in regard to the movement. First, there is senseless rioting. I’m not talking about the destruction in Minneapolis anymore. I’m talking about people that have taken full advantage of the situation and gone to steal some things or destroy some property for personal gain in random cities during peaceful protests because they think they won’t get caught, and then defend it by saying it’s “for the cause.” However, as I said before, it is a very small percent of what is actually going on in the protesting. It’s almost not worth focusing on at all. I hate to say this because I don’t believe in conspiracy theories, but don’t be fooled by the media (as I was). Second, there is “retaliation” on cops and their families. I totally get that not every cop is a good cop and not every cop is a bad cop. There’s a mentality that cops can do no wrong and that needs to change. However, going after cops and their families does nothing but fuel the rage. Even if they are bad cops, try to leave their families out of it. Once again, improving the system protects both cops and citizens. If you won’t support the movement because you know a good cop that’s getting beat up over this, know that the message of the movement as a whole is not to beat up cops. All of that being said, there will always be a few people that are over-aggressive in their methods. Don’t base your stance on the behavior (or color) of those people.

Here is my closing statement: change begins with self reflection. Awareness has done so much, but it only goes so far. Educate yourself. Vote in local elections. Look past emotions and personal confrontations and have difficult but productive conversations. Remember that it’s not us vs. them, or black vs. white, or (as not one but two recent discussions suggested) the young people (Millennials and Gen Z) vs. the senior generation (Gen X and Boomers). We have a common goal. All you have to do is admit that there’s progress to be made. As a Christian, I know this world isn’t going to last forever. There will always be wrongdoings by people of all colors, backgrounds, and social classes. However, we have the power to choose to put an end to a part of it here and now. We cannot be complacent when we have an opportunity to improve, and this is our chance. It’s time to stand up and make a change.

Links I promised:

Protests in Los Angeles: The other three cities are accounts that I knew of from personal friends. The people I know personally near L.A. did not attend protests because of COVID-19 (similar reasons I myself did not attend locally). Even though I don’t know these guys, this account is by far the most revealing that I’ve heard about what happened in L.A. The Try Guys are some of my favorite entertainers, even though they aren’t perfect in their dealings and can be a bit crass. However, they are honest and open with their viewership. Listen to their podcast about the L.A. protests here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nADAICAeAT0 Disclaimer: they say not to share and to elevate Black voices, but proceeds from watching the video do go towards the cause.

2. George Washington and Slavery: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Washington_and_slavery As educators, we often tell students not to rely on Wikipedia. However, these days it’s actually pretty reliable. Most of the sources for this article are from hard cover books and not websites, which already makes it pretty high on the accuracy list.

3. Defunding the Police: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMcwklHOyYU Here’s what it means and how it could work.

4. Being unemployed and stuck at home, here’s a link I used to help support the movement. It’s a video created by a girl that combined Black artists and their art/content to raise awareness and money. I turned it on in the background while I got some work done. It’s super easy and convenient. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqUKmYofq28

5 Things You Need for a Trip to Disney

The quarantine is really bringing out the Disney in me. Since acquiring Disney Plus, I’ve gone through all of Star Wars, Marvel, and most of the Disney Princess movies. I fondly reminisced about my last trip to Disney World (click here to read: “A Story of Regrets: My Trip to Disney World“). Well, this weekend I was chatting with one of my friends about saving up for a buddy trip instead of a family vacation. Now that I’m all hyped about a new trip, (sadly, probably in the distant future) I thought I’d share some of my experience with my readers. Here are five essential things you need for your trip to a Disney park!

Sunscreen. I’m probably the palest person most of my friends and family know. I basically glow in the dark. Melanoma runs in both sides of the family, and I’ve been known to burn and blister in a matter of minutes. Not hours, minutes. Oh, you don’t think you’re pale? Are you immune to the sun? My younger adopted brother has dark Vietnamese skin, and even he wears sunscreen at Disney World. Florida in the summer is hot and humid, so the UV rays are coming in with a vengeance. Make sure you have a great sunscreen, regardless of your complexion. My mother and I have been converted to Neutrogena Age Shield. SPF 110 seems to be my magic number, despite the claims that anything above 30 works on the same level. We were at Disney for a week last summer, and neither of us got sunburned or even got new freckles. This stuff works all day. We splurged for our trip, but the store brand is what we use year-round, and it’s just as effective.

A Great Hat (or Visor). The white cap I wore around on my last trip to Disney World was a piece that I found in Walmart in the accessories aisle for less than $5. Sunscreen is great, but the best way to protect your skin is to cover it up. This cap actually replaced one that I accidentally left on a trip to Puerto Rico. It’s cheap enough that if you happen to lose it, it’s not a huge loss. My mom prefers a bucket hat (also from Walmart for the same price point) because it covers her neck and ears as well. I’m all for (and honestly, jealous of) people with Mickey Ears, but personally I recommend you save them for pictures and indoor attractions (at least in the summer).

A Great Water Bottle. Here’s where you don’t want to completely pinch your pennies. Back when I was teaching, I had a $5 water bottle. That thing leaked from the seams, the straw, and the cap after just one clumsy moment where it collided with our polished concrete floor. One of my students was tired of water covering our class tables, and bought me this CamelBak 25oz canister. This thing never leaks and is easily carried. It even fit in the side pockets of my day bag. When you’re at a Disney Park, you walk tens of thousands of steps a day without even realizing it, even in the off season. I recommend this baby for daily use and not only vacations. It also comes in over a dozen colors!

A Poncho. Florida in the summer is pretty unpredictable as far as the weather is concerned. When my family went to Disney in 2007, it rained every afternoon for at least an hour and a half. In 2019, it also rained unexpectedly at least twice. Ponchos are easy to carry and keep everything dry. Again, I gotta go with Walmart. As with any amusement park, if you buy their branded ponchos, you’re going to spend ten or more dollars on something that will probably only last you a day. I got this rain poncho (in yellow) at a neighborhood Walmart to wear for car-rider duty at work. Full price they’re around $11, but mine was on sale for $6. I wore it for my dismissal duties a few times before we went to Disney, and then it lasted me the entire trip. I still have it, actually. If you’re Texan, I’ve also seen them on sale at Buc-ee’s before.

A Day Pack or Backpack. Back in 2007, we all had fanny packs. Even though they’re making a comeback in social acceptance, I still refuse to wear one. You need something to carry all these essential items that isn’t hideous. I used this Waterproof/Anti-Theft Backpack from Amazon. It met all the requirements: comfortable to wear, anti-theft opening, waterproof, and big enough for the necessities. It’s a little pricey if you’re looking for cheap, but I mostly bought it to use for work-related flights and business trips, and since I started substitute teaching it is the only bag I take for work. My mom used a draw string bag similar to this one (yet again, from Walmart) for much less of the cost and it did just as good of a job carrying around her wallet, sunscreen, and water bottle. My Sis-in-Law carried a full size backpack for herself and Big Bro as well.

As you can see, I prioritize re-use in my essential items. Chances are, I will use most (if not all) of these again on my next Disney trip, saving even more money! Stay tuned for more Disney-related lists and be healthy at safe home until the parks open again!

A Story of Regrets: My Trip to Disney World–Part 3

In case you didn’t read the first two chapters of this long story, you can read part one here and part two here. Just a quick recap: our first four days of vacation were a roller coaster of highs and lows for me. The day we arrived, we had a series of unfortunate events that ended in a great meal, but cramped hotel room. Magic Kingdom was fun and productive, but in between activities I was constantly waiting on my Big Bro and Sis-in-Law to get their noses out of their phones. EPCOT was my biggest disappointment because it was my favorite park from our family trip in 2007, but in 2019 I didn’t get to see much of it because our appointments were poorly organized. The day we spent at Hollywood Studios ended in a nice highlight, but the day felt uneventful and somewhat wasted.

So here’s the setting for our fourth complete day at the resort, which happened to be Saturday. If you’ve read my blog before then you know about my observed Day of Rest (and if you haven’t, go ahead and click on the link to get caught up). Back in 2007, my family didn’t attend a park on the Saturday that we spent in Florida. Instead, we met up with some extended family members and relaxed at the condo. However, my Big Bro and Sis-in-Law haven’t observed the day of rest since their college days, and booked us for a day at Animal Kingdom. There is a long version of the backstory where my mom and I tried to plan alternative ways to spend the day, but none of them panned out. We agreed to proceed with our pass to Animal Kingdom.

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Our entering shot of the “Tree of Life”, the centerpiece of the Animal Kingdom Park.

We had fast passes for the Lion King Celebration (another of my mother’s favorite parts of the trip) and up until that show ended, I thought the day might not be so bad, except that the weather was hotter and muggier than it had been for the previous days of our trip. We ate lunch at a counter service place in the Africa section of the park. By then, I was already feeling burnt out and ready to go home, but we had only been in the park for two hours, and my older brother had plans for the whole day.

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The “Monkeys” during the Lion King Celebration. We took extra interest in the acrobats because my younger brother, who was back home saving money for his wedding, has a background in acro sports.

I mentioned in part one that I took kids to Disney World in 2018 for their senior class trip. The destination of the trip was actually Orlando, so Disney was only one day of their Florida-cation. On another day we had gone to Universal Studios. I had followed the kids around but left out some of the crazier roller coasters, but I did decided to go on the Harry Potter ride inside the Hogwarts castle. The category of that ride is called “motion-simulated”, which means you’re tossed in all directions while strapped into a bench in front of an IMAX screen (sometimes with 3D glasses) to give you the feeling of flying through the air. Well, because I’m wimpy, I was already holding back vomit within ten seconds of that ride. The kids kept the in-ride picture that captured my desperate, sick face, with my eyes closed and my hand reaching for my mouth. Thanks, kids.

So, as you can imagine, I wished to avoid that same experience on our Disney vacation. I sadly passed up several attractions, such as Star Tours in Hollywood Studios and Soarin’ in EPCOT. My mother is very prone to vertigo herself, so she was happy to bypass such rides with me. But in Animal Kingdom, my brother was dead set on having us go on the Pandora ride, which I had a strong suspicion was the same type of deal. I told him that I had no plans to get sick at Disney, as I had for the other rides, but he insisted that this one was different. It was “open air” he said. It wasn’t that intense. We would enjoy it, he said.

We had an hour to kill before our fast passes, so we got into a line for the less extreme ride, an underground canal ride that glowed with the nighttime bio-luminescence of the planet Pandora in Avatar. The ride was beautiful, cool, and peaceful. If the other ride was like my older brother claimed, perhaps I could stomach the next one.

But immediately there were signs–literal signs– that this was not the ride for us. Warnings were posted every ten feet. “Do not ride this ride if you are prone to motion sickness!” “This is a motion-simulation ride!” “DO NOT RIDE THIS IF YOU ARE PRONE TO MOTION SICKNESS!” We were moving through the line rather fast, and the warnings got worse and worse as we got further and further through the queue. I told my mom I was going to bail when the opportunity presented itself, because I wasn’t going to get sick on this ride or any other ride. She agreed. I was pretty fed up with my brother. I had asked him multiple times what kind of ride this was, and he had specifically told me that it was not motion simulated, when the signs everywhere declared otherwise.

He was pretty upset when we opted out at the “last chance” gate, but I did not regret our decision when the woman in front of us in the exit queue declared that she had nearly thrown up twice, and a man closer to the exit went to vomit in the nearest trash can. The realization that the ride could have made both of us really sick infuriated me. I had had it with this trip. None of it had been restful. The enjoyable moments were few and far between. Here we were, our second to last park day, and I had to fight with my brother in the ride queue on a day that (in my opinion) we shouldn’t have spent in the park in the first place.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’m a bit of an insomniac. As a teenager I would go without sleep for so long that I had multiple emotional breakdowns, and since then, I’ve spent years carefully regulating my sleep patterns and habits. I actually consider myself a relatively emotionally stable person as long as I get enough sleep. I had now slept four nights with less-than-ideal sleep, nights that followed long, exhausting days at the parks. I had spent weeks leading up to this point packing my apartment in preparation for a move, a move that I had to make because I no longer could afford to live on my own. My brother’s blatant disregard for my wishes was just a cherry on top of a stressful sundae that I had pent up inside for too long.

I left my mother in the gift shop and wandered to the nearest place to sit. The tears were uncontrollable at this point, and I really hoped that none of these strangers, who were probably enjoying their magical Disney experience, would notice my extra red nose and rivers of tears from underneath my cap and sunglasses. When my mom found me I told her I was done. I wanted to go back to the hotel. I didn’t want to see or do anything else today. I wanted time away from the siblings, time away from the crowds, time out of the heat, and an hour or two of real sleep.

I thankfully got rid of the tears before the Big Bro and Sis-in-Law emerged from the ride. My mom explained to them that the two of us felt like we really needed some rest, but they should stay and take advantage of the rest of the day. So, we went back to the hotel without them. I took a long shower and then a long nap and woke up feeling better but still upset with my brother about the whole ride thing. We obviously didn’t stay at the park long enough to make our dinner reservation, so when the siblings came back, we used our sit-down service at a restaurant inside our resort. We finally had time to walk around the resort leisurely, since up until now we had only gone to and from our building and room. We even got some things at the gift shop.

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Cinderella’s Castle in the early morning hours of the park. Our Breakfast reservation was for 8, so we got in during “Magic Hours” before the park officially opened.

Sunday was one of the earliest mornings we had because of our breakfast reservations. I’m not a morning person, as said before, but it was the most rested I had felt all week. It was our second day scheduled for Magic Kingdom, and we ate at the Crystal Palace which had Winnie-the-Pooh character dining. My brother had chosen it because Winnie-the-Pooh is my mom’s favorite character. Like our experience in Hollywood Studios (and very unlike the experience at EPCOT) the characters came on a predictable schedule. This time, I took pictures for the pictures instead of to get rid of the characters.

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My mom and me with Piglet. Notice the fog from the condensation on the windows behind us.
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Big Bro and Sis-in-Law with Pooh. The cap she’s wearing is from her SCUBA experience at EPCOT.

Following breakfast we did take a ride on Space Mountain (which is one of the few roller coasters I can still enjoy without being sick) but my mom said that the heat and the humidity were getting to her, and it was only eleven in the morning. My brother said he had an agenda in the park that day, but us girls went back to the hotel to take a nap. Mom and Sis-in-Law slept, but I spent the time catching up on social media and double checking my plans for my move later in the week. It was a nice change of pace and the closest thing I had to “me-time”. My brother arrived a couple hours later, and we decided to go to Disney Springs for the afternoon.

I had spent a day in Disney Springs on my January 2018 trip, and it had been one of my favorite parts–mostly because we let the kids loose and I wondered around to window shop on my own for hours. With the family it wasn’t quite the experience I was hoping for, since we still spent a lot of time waiting around for the Pokemon-catching siblings. We did take some time to see Toy Story 4, which was a goal of Big Bro’s anyway, and we did some window shopping and even some serious shopping.

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This is the display in front of our theater entrance. Nobody thought to stand in front for scale, but Woody is as tall as I am.

Since their trip to Disney in 2015 for their third anniversary, Big Bro and Sis-in-Law buy one piece of authentic Disney artwork for each of their trips. This time, since the trip was a gift to my mother and me, he asked us to pick one out. Following the movie, we went to an art gallery on the other side of Disney Springs and searched their collection, eventually settling on a piece of work by Thomas Kinkade (a.k.a. the “Painter of Light”) who is my mom’s favorite artist. We then ate our last counter service meal at a place in the shopping district before we parted ways once again. Big Bro and Sis-in-Law wanted to catch the Magic Kingdom fireworks one last time, and my mom stayed with me since I wanted to find some souvenirs.

Rain ruined some of the plans for the evening. When we got back to the hotel, Big Bro and Sis-in-Law arrived not long after. They had missed the monorail to the Magic Kingdom, and the gates had already closed when they arrived. We had planned to watch the show from the hotel, but the rain prevented us from seeing anything. Our trip to Disney had come to an end, and we packed our bags to be ready for our 6:30 am shuttle to the airport.

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Our view of Cinderella’s Castle as we headed to the bus stop on Monday morning a little after six a.m.

So, the journey had ended. I was full of mixed feelings. On the one hand, Disney parks are amazing places with unique atmospheres and attractions that not only entertain, but are also educate and innovate. As you’ve read, the trip was not so magical for me, yet I still knew I would miss the parks as I boarded our plane for Houston.

I blamed my brother for a lot of my unhappiness, but the truth is that nobody can keep you from happiness but yourself– especially in Disney World. It’s been almost a year since we went, and the biggest things I regret are that I didn’t try harder to see things from my brother’s perspective or put aside my pettiness for a more positive attitude. He did pay for us to spend six days on vacation. He got us the best meal plan, the best hotels, and the best restaurant reservations. He pushed us to go on the rides because he felt like we would enjoy the experience once we got past our “fear” (not realizing, of course, that it’s actually a very real tendency to experience motion sickness). Even though the vacation turned out to be the worst timing possible for me to leave, he meant for it to be a time for me to forget what was happening at home with my apartment and my job. He and his wife spent a lot of time chasing Pokemon, but they go to Disney all the time and they knew exactly what they would have time to do and not do, and chasing Pokemon was part of the experience for them. The more I look back at the trip, the more fun I remember having, and the more I realize how negative I was, and how much more “magical” of an experience I could’ve had if I had treated it as it was– a gift.

Big Bro was trying to recreate some of our greatest childhood memories, even if his logic was flawed. The family has changed since 2007. My father passed away in 2012 and I’ve gained two sisters-in-law since then. Marrying his wife and bringing her along on vacation was my Brother’s dream come true, but for me, the vacation made me realize how much I missed the absent members, and sadly I didn’t take the time to enjoy the ones that I was with in the moment.

The truth is that we all still love Disney, and we’ll probably go on a vacation again together in the future. When we do, it’ll be when I can afford my own portion of the trip so that my mom and I can have a separate room so that I can sleep and really enjoy it. Maybe Little Bro and Lil’ Sis-in-Law can go, too. The meal service was great, but honestly too much of a good thing, if you can believe it. (How did my mom and I each gain three pounds after walking ten miles a day?) I will probably stick to counter service and perhaps one or two big spurge meals. I would plan a rest day outside of the parks so that I’m not running on fumes, and I would definitely not go when I was in the middle of a big move.

I 100% recommend a Disney trip with your family. But if you’re like me and you don’t see eye-to-eye (cue the Goofy Movie soundtrack!) with your siblings all the time, make sure that you’ve made your peace before you go. Don’t let it stop you from having fun. Your attitude is up to you. Don’t be like me, a girl that walked away with a week of regrets from a free trip to Disney World. Be thankful and grateful with a heart ready for an adventure. Make sure you walk away with no regrets.

A Story of Regrets: My Trip to Disney World — Part 2

Here’s a quick recap to catch you up: It’s summer 2019, my Big Bro has flown most of my family (minus my younger brother) to Disney World for a vacation that he intends to rival an experience we had in 2007. I’m not a morning person, I like my space and I have a low tolerance level for certain traits in my brother’s personality. I spent two days traveling before our vacation even began, and I was already stressed because I was about to move out of my apartment in a week. Also, did I mention I was newly jobless?

It should have been the perfect time to take a Disney vacation. Yet from the moment that we arrived at the airport in Houston to the moment I finally drifted off to sleep in the midst of my multi-snoring-member family, I was just annoyed and upset. The only exception was that the food at the California Grill was amazing and definitely worth the fire evacuation/three-hour wait.

I woke up the second morning of our vacation determined to change my attitude. It was Magic Kingdom Day! The last time I had been at the Magic Kingdom was with those seniors eighteen months before in January of 2018. The kids being kids, they had opted to go on the rides, buy souvenirs and find the best food. I personally enjoy the shows and parades in addition to those things, but no one had wanted to do them with me. Now that I was with my family, I knew we would do all the things I’d missed out on when I was working.

Aside from the cramped quarters of our hotel room, the morning started out better than I anticipated. When we entered the park and Main Street U.S.A., I was feeling positive and prepared with my poncho, my SPF 110 sunscreen, and my 25 oz water bottle stuffed into my day pack, as well as my white cap and sunglasses.

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Big Bro, me, and our mom on Main Street U.S.A., Magic Kingdom Day 1
Not the whiteness of my skin, hence the SPF 110 sunscreen. Picture credit goes to my Sister-in-Law.

We did all the things I wanted to do– the Carousel of Progress, the Hall of Presidents, the parades, the slower rides like Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean, and we even ate at a restaurant that I chose for our counter service lunch. We browsed multiple shops and ate a place in Liberty Square for dinner.

Despite all the wonderful things, (and because I’m a terrible human being) I began to find things to complain about. Normally, in any given group of my friends, I’m the slow one that’s several paces behind. But in my family, I felt like I was being held back. Big Bro and Sister-in-Law are big on Pokemon Go, and they spent what I felt to be unreasonable amounts of time wandering the park with their noses in their phones. (Side note: is pre-adventure Carl from Up my spirit animal?) I felt like a third of our time was spent just waiting on them–not even in lines or the two hours we sat in our spot to wait for the fireworks show. Still, I tried to be positive.

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Holding our spot and waiting for the fireworks show. After struggling to take selfies on our own, a kind stranger took our family picture.

I absolutely must pause the story to talk about the fireworks show that they have every night at the Magic Kingdom. They change it up every few years to keep it fresh, and obviously technology has come a long way since 2007. I had seen it with the kids in 2018, and Big Bro and Sis-in-Law had seen it on their last trip. To say they use the castle as a projector screen with some fireworks for emphasis would be the most simple way to explain, but 1000% downplayed. Despite our previous experiences with the show, it did not fail to impress us, excite us, and amaze us once more. And for my mother, who was viewing it for the first time, it was a part of the trip that she still goes on and on about to this day. The pictures don’t do it justice, so just go see it for yourself. It’s worth waiting for hours for a good seat.

Anyway, even though I had found things to complain about, the day was a success…until we returned back to the Hotel Room. After the spaciousness of the park, and having to wait on the shower to rinse all the well-earned sweat from my body, the small room the four of us were sharing felt confined and stuffy. I decided not to complain because it was our last night at that hotel, and also Big Bro had paid for us. I inwardly grumbled instead (because that’s better). Once again, everyone went to sleep except for me. The earplugs I’d brought were not enough to stifle the collective snoring. It was hours before I finally drifted off.

The next day was EPCOT day. In 2007, EPCOT was my favorite park. I especially loved the cultural aspects of it that outlined the park’s body of water. When I got up on EPCOT day in 2019, I was most excited for my favorite park. We had to get up early to pack our bags and drop them off at the concierge to be transferred to our new place while we were gone, and then we took the shuttle bus to the day’s destination.

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Look how excited I was when I photo bombed my Sister-in-Law! If only I’d known…

The first thing we did was use our fast passes for Spaceship Earth, the ride that goes all around that giant golf-ball looking structure at the entrance of the park. However, a large portion of the park (my favorite portion, with the countries around the water) wouldn’t be open for another half hour. This is where the day began to go south. EPCOT is more spread out than the other parks, so you have to be a bit more strategic in your plans than we were that day. Our fast passes and reservations caused us to walk from one end of the park to the other more than once, and the nose-to-the-phone action from the day before hadn’t stopped, putting even more lag time between activities.

We had lunch reservations at the Garden Grill in the Land Pavilion. This particular place rotates so you can see displays from the ride below as you eat. It also has character dining, which means that they have the Disney characters come by and interact and take pictures. Well, I really sat in the wrong spot for this place. I let my mom slide into the booth first, which left me on the open end. Tell me why every single character that was at this restaurant wanted to sneak up on me and grab my shoulders? I don’t even like jump scares when I’m with my friends. I don’t even watch scary movies. It’s embarrassing and stressful, and I almost always have to hold back tears. I seem to be the only member of my family to feel this way, because they thought it was hilarious each time a giant nose, ear, or hand popped up beside me. I eventually realized they would leave as soon as I took pictures, so the below picture was taken in an effort to get rid of the character more than preserve memories.

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Can you see the tears in my eyes? He was probably the fifth one to scare me.

In hindsight, I should have switched spots with someone–anyone else. Instead I excused myself to the nearest restroom to wipe away the tears and give myself a lecture about growing up.

After lunch we decided to go on the ride that we had been observing from the restaurant above, which actually turned into more of a tour of American agriculture. I’m not complaining about the ride. It was actually very insightful and relaxing. We floated in canals around replicas, historic displays and archival footage before we drifted through the gardens that EPCOT keeps up for both food and research. Following that experience, however, we returned to the slump that we had fallen into with the morning. We finally headed out to experience the countries, but we were only explored a couple before my brother said we had to make our next fast pass reservation. At this point, I said I’d rather explore the countries than walk back across the park for a ride that would make me nauseous, and my mother said she was all for a plan that included staying out of the sun as much as possible. We told them to go ahead, but my brother was insistent that we stay together because it was our family vacation.

One of the things you can do at EPCOT is that if you’re a licensed (or certified? I don’t know how it works) scuba diver, you can pay to swim around their aquariums in the Ocean building. Well, my Sis-in-Law has whatever it takes. The Ocean building, of course, is across the park from where we were leaving a performance of the Voices of Liberty. It would be a good chunk of her day, so she departed from the rest of us and we told her we would come by and see her when she was in the tank with the fish. In the meantime, it started to rain. My brother told us he highly recommended the Frozen ride, although the line was fairly long–but inside. It was the longest line we waited in possibly the whole vacation (around 2 hours), but the queue for the ride is well decorated, cooled, and themed. It was a nice rest from the heat and the rain.

By the time we were done, we went to the aquarium to see Sis-in-Law swim with the fishes. The group swim is 30 minutes, so we stuck around much of the time to watch the divers interact with the marine life. Then, we waited for Sis-in-Law to join us.

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Sis-in-Law swimming with the fishes.

We expected her to show up at any minute following the dive, but after an hour my mom and I left the aquarium to find some counter service dinner. It was thirty or more minutes before the siblings finally joined us. By now the countries were closing, and the only thing left to do was look through some of the souvenir shops before finding our spot for the closing ceremonies.

The EPCOT ceremony was amazing, but nothing compared to the Magic Kingdom fireworks, so I’ll just skip ahead. Just know that there was a lot of fire. On the water.

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Everyone smiling for the departure from EPCOT. The lights were more vibrant than the cameras give them credit for in this picture.

That day was by far the most disappointing. I had been so excited to spend the day at my favorite park, and instead we walked and walked and walked… I boarded a monorail feeling like I had done hardly anything besides wait around and get startled to the point of tears.

Thankfully, we arrived at our new hotel that night: the Polynesian Resort. The Polynesian is the second nicest next to the Grand Floridian, and is only one monorail stop away from the Magic Kingdom. The room we inhabited for the remainder of our stay was much bigger than the one we’d had at the All-Star Movies resort, and our luggage was waiting for us. As it was now the third night that I had to sleep with my snoring family, I finally began to get used to the noise and fell asleep not long after the others.

Our third day was at Hollywood Studios. It was also the least eventful day. We met our fast passes for shows like Muppets 3D (which hasn’t changed since 2007), Indiana Jones, and The Little Mermaid. This was still two months before they opened the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge portion of the park. Toy Story Land was a new thing, but it was raining when we went to explore it, and it seemed much more juvenile than we had hoped. Classics that I remembered from 2007 like The Great Movie Ride and the studio tour were gone and replaced with new things or “coming soon” signs. This time, Big Bro and Sis-in-Law agreed to split from mom and me, and they took off to ride the bigger rides like Star Tours, and Rock ‘n Rollar coaster. My mom and I wandered the shops, and then spent a couple of hours sitting on various benches along the Hollywood streets. We had character dining again for dinner, but this time I wasn’t taken by surprise or startled to tears.

There was a highlight of the otherwise uneventful day: they have a show at the end of the day called Fantasmic (or something like that) that features a wide variety of classic show tricks, lights, characters, and music. Unlike the other parks, this show is held in an amphitheater that has somewhat limited seating, so we had fast passes that allowed us in an hour and a half before it began. At first I thought we were going to be sitting around on metal benches with nothing to do. But it soon became very entertaining.

An employee that was running one of the merchandise kiosks down front began dancing and lip syncing to every song. Before long, a train of vendors and park guests were doing the same moves. An hour in, and we were doing the wave from left to right with the entire audience. The show that followed was my second favorite next to Magic Kingdom, legions ahead of the EPCOT closing ceremonies. (They’ve since retired the show at EPCOT and given it a new one that I haven’t seen, so make sure to check both out for yourself!)

We had two days of parks left, and things were beginning to look up for me and my attitude. I had more space, more tolerance, and better memories (despite all my favorite parts of Hollywood Studios no longer being around). However, the worst moments were yet to come.

Stay tuned for part three!

A Story of Regret: My Trip to Disney World– Part 1

First of all, I just want to clarify that I don’t regret going to Disney World. In fact, I highly recommend Disney World to anyone that loves Disney and/or Central Florida humidity. I’ve been missing Disney lately. I’ve had so much time during the quarantine to take full advantage of my Disney Plus membership that I’ve started thinking about saving up to go again.

However, my last trip to Disney was less than “magical.”

Here are the backstories: Disney World trips run in the family. My mom took several senior classes for their class trips back in the ’80’s and early ’90’s. My parents went for their honeymoon and stayed in the Dolphin resort (which, oddly, is symbolized by a fish?) and we went as small kids the summer before we adopted my younger brother. I don’t remember much about that trip, except that we came home with classic toys of the ’90’s, such as Buzz and Woody dolls for my older brother and a plush Pluto that squeaked when you squeezed his body for myself. We also took a trip to Disneyland at some point that I have zero memory of, so I don’t really count that.

I was about to turn 14 in the summer of 2007. That year we took a week-long trip to Disney World. My parents rented a timeshare condo that had shuttle service to the parks. The condo was super convenient! I even got my own room, which is a teenage girl’s vacation dream come true. The kitchen was fully stocked so we bought groceries, took sack lunches with us, and ate dinners at the condo. We hit up one major park a day and did all the memorable things. We took hundreds of pictures that my brother later made into a slide show and gave us all DVD copies. To this day, it’s my mom’s favorite vacation we’ve ever gone on. As far as family vacations go, it stands out in my mind not only because we love Disney, but because it was one of the rare instances we flew instead of taking a road trip.

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Family Vacation Summer 2007– Have you seen more awkward teenagers than the three of us???

Fast forward about five years: my older brother married his wife. It was always his dream to have a honeymoon like my parents’, but my parents got married in their late thirties (and Dad was an engineer at the time) so they had the money to have a cool honeymoon with the top luxuries offered by the resort. My brother and his wife were college kids with no money and virtually no savings. Her parents lived pretty simple lives, and mine were paying three kids’ tuition and my Dad’s medical bills (Dad passed away later that year). So, instead of a fancy Disney honeymoon, they had a small-budget honeymoon following their small-budget wedding with the plan to save up for a few anniversaries.

They finally went for a week for their third anniversary. They had a marvelous time and even got converted into the Disney Vacation Club. From that point on, they went to a Disney park at least once a year. Sometimes it would only be for a weekend, but the more they visit the more benefits rack up in their club memberships. Big Bro started talking about taking the entire family, declaring that he would pay for everything, and their DVC membership would help pay for lodging within the resort instead of finding a place off-site. He would ask my mom and me every Christmas when we would clear our schedules to go. Our options were pretty limited to the summer, since we were full-time teachers. Scheduling with the Little Bro was a hassle in and of itself.

In 2018, Big Bro declared that 2019 was the summer we were finally going. My Little Bro simultaneously declared that 2019 was the year he and his girlfriend would be tying the knot. As a result, he forfeit his seat on our vacation to work and save up for their wedding. Besides, he had gone a few different times since our 2007 vacation. (He was a little bitter after we went, but still stands by his decision.)

Both of my brothers had been to the parks on several occasions since 2007, but I had only been once as a senior class sponsor for one day in early 2018, and it was a very lonely experience. The kids wanted to ride all the rides, and, not to sound old, but I just can’t stomach a lot of the extreme ones anymore. My boss, the co-sponsor, was putting out fires on the phone all day, so I wandered the Magic Kingdom by myself. By the time my brother put our plans into motion, I was more than ready for a re-do.

Unfortunately, the months leading up to our trip weren’t the best for me. My apartment in Tulsa flooded twice, and I had lost out on my dream job (for the second time, if you’ll remember from my first post), and I was scheduled to move only days after we returned from our trip. Our plane tickets were from in and out of Houston, so I drove to my mom’s and then we went to Houston together, which added two driving days before I even go to the house in Houston. I also didn’t realize at the time that we were going to stay all together in the same room at our resorts. I’m the type that needs my alone time, and as soon as I knew I wasn’t going to get any for a week, my attitude began to wane.

Big Bro is only 15 months older than I am, and for the majority of our lives he’s had these little mannerisms that just get under my skin and grind my gears. He married a girl that is very similar to himself. Great for them, just double the tolerance for me. I lived with them for a year from 2016-2017 and came away very bitter about the whole experience. Since then, I’d resolved to try more to not only tolerate, but also accept and embrace them for who they are. After all, their personalities aren’t toxic or mean. They’re just very different compared to my own. And my brother was paying for us to go to Disney World for six days. I owned him a positive attitude.

Haha yeah, that’s not how it happened. We left at 4:30 am from the house (again, after I’d added two days of driving just to get there). I’m not a morning person, and little things bothered me all through the airport, on the plane, and then when we landed. As a twenty-five-year-old girl that had been living on her own for two years, I had grown used to traveling on my own time and in my own way. But with my family, what I felt should have been the easy part of traveling became a hindrance. My brother acted like my mom and I had never been through an airport before, informing us of every step of security and dictating what to do with our boarding passes and luggage. My sister-in-law, despite his instructions, held us up at every step by taking her sweet time unpacking and repacking her bag or staring at her phone. When we were on the flight, every time I’d plug in my earphones or bring out my book, my mom would nudge me to make a comment or have a conversation. When she was done, I’d settle into my own thing to, moments later, be immediately interrupted. We had a layover in Charlotte, NC so I had extra time to be annoyed.

When we landed in Orlando, I was already scolding myself. We were going to Disney World. Why did I have to be such a little bitch about the traits of my family that I’ve lived with for the past twenty-five years? I had to be optimistic. This was my chance to enjoy my trip, and I knew I wouldn’t have the money to go again for years.

Image may contain: Jack Amos Sauder, Ann Sauder, Dorothy Taylor Sauder and Theresa Sauder, people smiling, people standing and indoor
Standing in line for the Disney Magic Express shuttle to take us to our first hotel. Look how happy I was trying to look!

Back in 2007, they gave out little credit card things that were your passes into the park. Now, they have “magic bands” that you wear on your wrist. It stores all your information, including access to your hotel room, your park passes, fast passes, and your meal plan. You can even attach a credit card so that you can pay for stuff without bringing out your wallet. They’re actually rather nifty. They send them to you after you make your reservations so that you have them when you arrive, and the first time we used ours was when we were in line for the shuttle bus.

We were on the bus for about thirty minutes before we arrived at our first (of two) hotels. We stayed at the All-Star Movies resort, one of the more motel-style places, in the Fantasia wing. The animation in Fantasia is one of my favorites, so that was actually nice to look at the larger-than-life figurines and statues all around our resort. Our room, however, was far too small for the four of us to really be comfortable. There wasn’t even room to simultaneously have suitcases open and a walking path.

We had a few minutes of downtime before my brother declared we had to leave for our reservations at the California Grill, a restaurant in the Contemporary Resort next to Magic Kingdom. We grabbed our day packs and headed out. We then stood in line for the Magic Kingdom shuttle for the first time that trip. We’d just missed it, and the wait was probably twenty minutes. My brother was spewing all sorts of Disney facts, but because I’m also a Disney-lover, I already knew them all. It was just noise to me after a while.

The shuttle trip to the Magic Kingdom was about fifteen minutes, but when we arrived, it was raining. We had packed ponchos but left them at the hotel since we weren’t planning on doing a lot of walking. Ha! What a mistake. We were supposed to take the monorail, but monorail was closed when we arrived due to “an issue” at the contemporary station. I wanted to wait under the monorail shelter, but my brother insisted we needed to make our reservation and shrugged off the walk. Well, not only did we walk more than half a mile to the Contemporary, but half-way there it began to pour.

Not only that, but the Contemporary was closed when we arrived because a fire alarm had been pulled on the fourth floor. Hundreds of people were standing outside, waiting to be let back in to their rooms, restaurants, spas, and shops. We were soon let into the first floor, and eventually to the second, until we made it to our destination on an upper floor.

Because of the delay, our five o’clock reservation wasn’t called until after eight pm. By then, I was tired and cranky. I had air-dried while sitting on the floor near the check-in desk. We hadn’t eaten since our layover much earlier that morning, I had done my hair and makeup for the restaurant but now I looked like something that cat dragged in. I was about to kill something by the time we sat at our table at the California Grill. I could have strangled the chicken that they grilled for me.

And remember, this was only the first day of our trip.

The place is famous for it’s penthouse view, as you can see in the picture below. Many of the famous landmarks from the parks can be seen from the windows. I, of course, ended up in the chair that was facing away from the view. On the upside, and the only redeeming grace of my day, the food we had was amazing!

Image may contain: 5 people, including Dorothy Taylor Sauder, Ann Sauder and Theresa Sauder, people smiling, people sitting
Our table at the California Grill during appetizer bread. Notice how I was not in the mood or even warned about taking this picture. Also, note the magic bands my mom and I are wearing.

A pretty rotten start to our big family vacation–at least for me. The rest of the family thought that it was all a grand adventure: a story for the future generations! Under normal circumstances, I probably would have felt the same. If I had been with my friends or even with my students, I would have seen the whole thing differently. But as it was, I felt like everything was falling apart and nobody could see it but me.

Sleeping in the same room as my family, the part I was most dreading, was just as bad as I thought. Multiple members snore and we all had to rotate usage of the bathroom. It had been five years since I’d had to live that way, and it’s not exactly what I would call, ‘relaxing’.

Do you think I’m a terrible person yet? Just wait. I get worse. Stay tuned for Part Two.

Sleep In Peace.

Back in May of 2015, the day after my college graduation ceremony, I boarded a plane with the other 34 members of my college choir for Europe. At the time I felt very close to a large percentage of the group, but now I’m still in touch with only a few of them. It’s crazy to think about how much has happened in the past five years, especially when I think about how much I’ve changed.

You know what hasn’t changed, though? I still get paralysis when I’m face to face with a bug.

When I was a little girl, we lived in the middle of a metropolis. Our house was always clean. The only place bugs belonged was outside. Seeing bugs outside wasn’t bad. They were God’s happy little creations. I was seven when we moved to a house in the country–in a different region of Texas–and there I first encountered REAL roaches. Don’t even get me started on spiders! We lived in that house for fifteen years at this point, and I had never gotten over it. My college was also in a rural town, so I always had a can of Raid next to my bed, under my sink, and in the closet for emergencies. Fly swatters were also stationed at every door.

When we left for Europe, I hadn’t even considered the possibility of there being bugs in Europe. To me, Europe was a distant land thriving with art and culture, with fantastical adventures and magical people. All of that changed the night we saw…the BUG.

Just to summarize the trip up to this point, we had already had several performances. We spent the first leg of the journey in Switzerland and the weekend had ended with a lovely sight-seeing day in Geneva (where, by the way, I got super sun burnt and lost my favorite white shirt to a painful death of chicken grease). Following Geneva, we headed back into Italy. We drove for several hours in our caravan of nine-passenger vans. We grew increasingly frustrated with our choir director, as he would not let us stop or even tell us where we were headed so that we could find out how long we would have to wait to relieve our poor bladders. When we finally stopped, dark had settled hours before, and the house we had waited so long to arrive in seemed…well, sketchy. First of all, it was in the middle of nowhere, and I had nearly lost the contents of my stomach while climbing what seemed like endless circles of hills. Bushes covered the entire back side of the building. Walls had cracks, the windows had no panes, and part of the place looked like it had been a barn once. We were all frustrated and tired. This actually led to a public confrontation I had with our choir director, where I elected myself to express the frustrations of the entire group. It was not my proudest moment, and if you’re reading this, Mr. Wall, I really am sorry about that. Rest assured that my complaining-student-karma has gotten it’s revenge.

Anyway, two other girls and I ended up sharing one of the bedrooms of this…place. There was a full size bed and a cot. The two girls were much closer friends since the dawns of their childhood, but Homegirl A got the cot because she’d been sick, and Homegirl B shared the full size bed with me. The three of us were sizing up the place, unpacking for our three-night stay and laying out our uniforms for some choir-tour wrinkle-release when we saw it.

The BUG.

I call it the bug, but I don’t think it’s striking fear into your heart, dear reader, in the way that it indubitably deserves. I had never seen anything like it. It had a fat, husky torso that squirmed like a worm, a dozen chunky, joined legs like a family of crickets, an exoskeleton that seemed to camouflage into the wall and the floor, and two antennae that were turning to stare at us, as if to tell us Aha, you poor children! This will be your last night on earth!

I. Was. Petrified. Neither of the homegirls were any better in this situation. They were both underclassmen, and I was the senior. I was supposed to be the experienced one! Yet all three of us found ourselves standing in our socks on the bed, holding shoes above our heads, squealing and jumping back and forth, trying to kill the bug with aim from afar versus actually hitting it from up close.

The BUG disappeared. We looked for hours! (Okay…maybe like ten minutes). We finally resolved that there was only one thing we could do–the usual last resort that should have been the first resort. We sat together on the full size bed, said a short prayer of deliverance from our enemy, and then went to sleep. Actually, it turned out to be one of the best nights of sleep I had on the trip. True, it was after one of the longest days, the hardest rides, and one of the few nights I had an actual bed, but normally the bug would’ve kept me awake with paranoia all night long.

We never found the bug, but the next day we awoke to find that we were actually staying at an authentic Italian villa. The grounds had enough beds for everyone, a game room, multiple living areas, hammocks, a pool, a pizza hut (like a literal pizza-making hut) and a giant kitchen. Best of all, the building was on top of one of the hills that overlooked kilometers and kilometers of the Italian countryside. We spent the next three days living it up like kings in that place. Some of the best memories from the trip were spent at that villa.

The following school year I was living at a school in a rural community. I actually had two different houses while I was there, and in each one I had weekly-to-daily breakdowns about the spider infestation of my home that made my fright over the BUG look like child’s play. That was just the tip of the ice burg of my living situation there. I found that I had to do some serious soul searching while I was there, and not just for the bugs. One evening, I was reading and came across this verse in the Bible.

 “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8

I took a picture and sent it to the Homegirls and reminded them of our night with the BUG. Ever since then, when I heard this verse, I think back to that night.

I’ve been feeling anxious lately for obvious reasons. No doubt that at least one of you reading this has felt the same. I’ve been feeling such anxiety that I feel nauseous sometimes. I haven’t felt that sort of anxiety in years. Sometimes I feel like all I can do is live in fear, the fear that at any moment, my mom or I could show symptoms, or that I won’t earn any money until likely September or October. Each day I wake up refreshed, but each night the emotions stack higher than the night before.

I saw that verse this evening as I scrolled one last time through Facebook. It reminded me, as it has for the past four years, that when we first arrived at the villa we were afraid and frustrated and impatient. I saw a BUG and thought my life could not get any worse. After a prayer with my friends and a good night’s rest, it turned out to be a beautiful place with a great view and amazing memories. It’s a peaceful thought in the midst of my never-ending storm of emotions.

What’s going on outside is scary. It might get worse before it gets better. But tonight, after five years of learning to trust God step by step, I have decided to say this prayer from Psalm 4:8 and sleep in peace, knowing that I dwell in safety.

I wish the same on you, my friends.

My Post-Corona Bucket List

What do you miss most about the old life? Is it work or school? Is it church? Is it hang-outs with friends or an occasional concert? Maybe it’s watching professional sports or going to a movie. We all miss the old life (I know, I know, it was like two weeks ago) and perhaps the nostalgia for simpler times has inspired you, as it has me, to make some resolutions about when this is all over.

If you read my last little entry (see my post: My Quarantine Bucket List), then you know that I have resolved to do a number of things while under the current quarantine such as cleaning, reading, and cooking. However, do not take this list to mean that I’m not as 100% ready for this to end, because as introverted as I can be, I’m definitely missing the outside world.

I’m Going to Work. I mean, I’ll go to work if the school year is still going on by the time the pandemic has blown over. I miss working, actually. I wouldn’t say substitute teaching is my calling, but it’s definitely better than most other jobs I would want to have. If my last day of substitute teaching had really been my last day, I probably would’ve done some things differently. In that same vein, I’ll be saving more of my paycheck from now on in case I’m ever unexpectedly out of work for months at a time. I won’t be letting job opportunities pass me by, either. I won’t be taking work for granted anymore after this.

I’m Going to Get Out More with my Friends. I literally never go out to concerts, but a friend had invited me to one that was supposed to be on March 21 (lol we all know what happened to that one). I was actually pretty excited about it and having a weekend with a mini-road trip to Dallas. Back in January, a woman from church invited me to a concert she didn’t know anything about, and it was STOMP (go Google it with the knowledge that I have a degree in symphonic percussion studies). When this is over, I’m going to seek out more opportunities to get out more with my friends. I’ve gotten used to the secluded lifestyle, but having everything cancelled was like a wake-up call for everything I was missing.

I’m Going to Church. This sounds more spiritual than it is. It’s really more of a commitment not to skip church needlessly. The last time we went to church was about a month ago, and before that we had several weeks we also did not attend. It’s not really about skipping as much as it is about being somewhere else. We sometimes take the weekend to see my brother and sister-in-law in Dallas. Sometimes we take a break from dressing up and go on a walk in the park instead. We had a memorial service at the Conroe Church that we went to one week. We were on Spring Break and then–church everywhere was cancelled. I miss dressing up and going to sing with other people and having small-talk conversations. I’ll be doing my best to go every week diligently once they open the doors again.

I’m Going to Keep Up with Sports. By the amount of people complaining about major league sports getting canceled, it seems like I’m really missing out. I can say the first time I realized this whole thing was serious was when somebody said, “You know they might postpone the Olympics?” And is this a FIFA World Cup Year?? (Just checked and it’s not). Previously the only sport I remotely followed was baseball, and sometimes I know who is playing in the Superbowl. Now’s my time to really embrace being an American–follow the league before the championship games, buy a jersey, wave a flag!

Ha! Just kidding, I’m not doing that. However, I do plan to visit a wider variety of restaurants, because Taco Bell everyday is really not the part of college that I was hoping would carry over five years.

I’m Going to the Dallas State Fair and/or Houston Rodeo. The last time I attended either of these events was before my memory decided they were important enough to leave an imprint. So I’ve never really gone, despite spending four years in college less than an hour from the State Fair and twenty years of my life less than an hour from the Houston Rodeo. One of my friends and I had decided to go to the Rodeo this year, but by the time we finally got around to schedule juggling, it was closed.

I’m Going to the Beach. The last several times I’ve been to the beach, I’ve either been working, it’s been freezing, or a storm is a-brewing out direction over the sea. I’ve really wanted to go with a group of friends for a while. I really feel like summer 2020 is going to be my year. I bought a new swimsuit, at Disney last year I figured out that 110 is my magic number for SPF protection and I already started my road trip posse. I’ve been feeling those summer vibes every day for the past two weeks, despite the weather being closer to a “chilly drear” than a “warm breeze”. I’m ready, guys!

Obviously, it’s been rough on everyone to stay inside (yes, even you introverts!) But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. When this whole crisis is over, I really do think that the world is going to have a new zest for life. What will you do when the crisis ends? Let me know in the comments!

Last but not least, remember that it might get worse before it gets better, but it will get better.

My Quarantine Bucket List (Without a Screen Binge)

Welp…I’ve now been in self-quarantine for over seven days. Quarantine might be a liberal use of the word, because actually I seem to find reasons to go out on a daily basis. My mom is teaching remotely from her school, so I have now taken her lunch three times. Last week I had to make two trips to the neighborhood market just because we were out of bananas and/or tomatoes. Yesterday we went to two different grocery stores for our groceries. Even though we did our best to stay a llama’s length or more away from people, it seemed pretty impossible in some of the more crowded aisles. I wash my hands a dozen times a day and I’m working hard to create a habit of wiping down the doorknobs in ever room in the house on a daily basis.

My mom might still be going to work, but I am out of a job for the time being. Before the virus, I would spend my once-to-twice-weekly day off to grab some groceries, maybe do some window shopping, and definitely get fast food somewhere. Now I spend all day at home. The first day or two of last week I thought I get out a little bit, but the more I thought of how my mom still has to go to work (she’s 66 and one year from retirement), the more I thought I needed to cut her chance of getting the virus in half by staying in as much as possible.

I’ve been spending insane amounts of time on social media while being locked up like this, and I’ve seen dozens of lists that say things like “Things to do with your kids while quarantined” and “Things you and your partner can do while quarantined” and “Things to do with your roommate on quarantine”. But what about if you’re single and at home alone all day? What if you are married or have a roommate but they have to still go to work like my mom? What if they’re at home but have to keep working remotely?

The obvious answer is binging Netflix or Hulu or Disney Plus. While I’m not going to tell you that I don’t do that type of thing (because I definitely can) I really try not to for too long. I am a diagnosed insomniac, and “screen time” is one of those things that directly affects both the quantity and quality of my sleep. Therefore, I have come up with this list of things to accomplish before the quarantine is lifted that perhaps you, possibly unemployed reader, can do as well.

Clean and Organize Everything. It’s been a week, and so far I’ve spent exactly two days dedicated to this task. We have a two bedroom apartment that’s approximately 750 square feet. I spent a whole morning last week on the living room. Friday I tackled my own bedroom (which, by the way, is already a mess again). This morning I dusted my mom’s room and cleaned every surface with disinfecting wipes. I’m not even half-way done, but it’s more done than it’s been in a long time. Don’t get me wrong, our place is definitely not a pig sty. But you know how it is: it’s hard to be motivated to do more than just “straighten up” when you’re both working full-time. The dishes, trash, laundry, and bathroom cleaning are all done on a weekly basis around here. The rest of the place has been collecting dust since before I moved in. When I’m tired of looking at my phone or playing with the cat, it’s been nice to just turn on Pandora and focus on cleaning.

Read More Books. In the optimistic hope that I’ll find a history teaching job for the fall, I’ve already begun to write a syllabus that includes book reports. I wanted to get a good book list going, and I’ve read reviews for a ton of both historical fiction and non-fiction stuff that I then added to an Amazon shopping list. I bought the two least expensive books and I’m now in the process of reading them. Neither are something I would normally just pick up and read for entertainment, but now’s the time to try something new! Perhaps I’ll post an update on how the books are later.

Spend Leisure Time on the Patio. I’ve always wanted to sit on a patio and read a book or do some writing outside with a cup of coffee next to me. When I lived in Tulsa (mid 2017-mid 2019) I lived in an apartment on the edge of midtown that had a patio that faced the courtyard. It was one of the less expensive places to live, so the area was largely considered “the ghetto” by most of my coworkers. The neighbors were also sketchy-is-as-sketchy-does, so basically I never stepped foot outside unless I absolutely had to. However, my mom’s apartment is much nicer. It’s in a good part of town and the patio is both enclosed (unlike my previous one) and faces our complex’s dog walk. It’s much more ideal for my little dream. It goes hand-in-hand with my “books” point above. Since I have only so much to do inside but can’t leave the house, it’s the perfect time. It’s been raining a lot, but on that first nice, warm day, I’m putting on some bug spray and sitting on that patio with my Starbucks.

Make a Recipe Book of Low-Fat/Low-Carb Dinners. Last summer our primary care doctor told me that I should exercise a minimum of two hours a week. She told my mom to exercise three hours a week and go on a low-fat/low-carb diet. We did the exercise thing pretty diligently and both lost a few pounds in time for my brother’s wedding last October. When the weather started getting cold and rainy, we kind of slacked off. We’re back to averaging about three hours a week again, but until last week, we hadn’t addressed the diet part at all. So, I got on Pinterest, found some great recipes, and last week was a success! It was hard to cook literally every single day when I was working, but now I have no excuse. We’re on week two of cooking every night only. If this is going to be a normal thing, I really need to write down the stuff and put it in a book or on the fridge. Healthy habits are happy habits, right?

Make a Pinterest Board of All My Clothes. A couple years ago (again, in Tulsa) I really felt the need to revamp my working style. I downloaded some app that was advertised similarly to this: “Download this, take pics of all your clothes, and we’ll give you an outfit every day so you won’t have to figure out what to wear!” Well, basically the ads got overwhelming, the app didn’t like the lighting my room was giving it for the pictures, and then also wanted me to pay some subscription. Obviously I had to get rid of it. I decided I’d just start taking pictures of outfits I wore each day to work and saving them to a Pinterest board called “My Closet”. After a couple of weeks I started to use it the same way the app was supposed to be used. I’d scroll through my board and see what I liked best that day, and then I’d grab those clothes from the closet. I haven’t done it more than twice since becoming a substitute teacher. My wardrobe has shifted from “I’m the energetic and colorful music teacher!” to “I’m neutral, comfortable and professional so that you understand that I’m not 18 or a student at this high school”. It doesn’t mean I still don’t have some great outfits. I really want to take all the pictures and dress up again so that when this quarantine period ends, I’ll be ready to take on the fashion world again (and by “fashion world”, I mean the local high schools).

What are some things on your list of to-do’s before the quarantine ends? Let me know in the comments and perhaps we can share our inspirations! Obviously my list was very specific, but I’m sure you have personal and specific things too. Remember to wash your hands and wipe down your door knobs! Stay tuned for the next post: My Post-Corona Bucket List.

A Day For Rest

After the last couple of weeks, I think it’s safe to say that the world could use a little bit of rest. Some of us need rest from resting, am I right? I’ve spent the last week out of work, and the governor just extended school closures through April 3rd. I’ve been very productive but also very lethargic. Tuesday I did not leave my apartment. Wednesday I ran to the grocery and I’m pretty sure my legs were exhausted just from walking the length of the parking lot. Those that aren’t unemployed indefinitely are working hard to make sure the rest of us can return to work as soon as possible, while also worrying all the time if their families are going to catch the virus from them when they get home tonight. Some have already distanced themselves to protect their families. Kids, parents, and their teachers are trying to figure out how on earth this digital or non-digital home school thing works. The worst, of course, are those that either have positive test results for the virus itself, think they have it without being tested, or know that they’ve been exposed and are ticking time bombs. Honestly, besides worrying about how I’m going to pay my bills starting in May and being predisposed for severe cases of cabin fever, I consider myself one of the more fortunate.

Because it’s Friday, I thought it might be time to start the “Pray” part of my blog. If you think you might need some rest, I was hoping that you, dear reader, would allow me to spend a few moments of your time explaining a vital piece of my childhood and spiritual life.

First, though, a history lesson: Genesis states that God created the world in six days, and on the seventh, he rested from his work. He then commissioned the Sabbath to be a day of rest for his people. Sabbath is mentioned many times in the Bible thereafter. The number 7 also became symbolic and recurring throughout the Old Testament. I’m pretty sure 7 is God’s favorite number. Not only was the 7th day of what would become a 7-Day week cycle (which is observed universally, by the way) put aside as a day of rest, but every seventh year the people were to not plant their harvest and let the ground rest. How would they survive, you ask? God promised to bless them on year 6 enough to feed everyone in the land. This 6-1 year pattern is called a Shmita. Oh, you thought it stopped there? There’s another rule of seven, that at the end of every SEVEN Shmitas there was a year of Jubilee. (Ah, now we’re in familiar territory again.) On the year of Jubilee, not only was it a break from harvest, but they were supposed to free all their slaves, forgive all the debts, and God would pour out his mercies and blessings.

Of course it hasn’t been observed in centuries because there was this whole thing where all of Israel actually had to be living in the promised land and then some tribes got separated/kicked out and a then the whole Babylonian empire thing and…well, anyway, moving on.

My point is, rest is something that is very important to God. He even put it into the Ten Commandments. I’m sure you’ve heard of most of them. To paraphrase: love God First. No making idols. No taking God’s name in vein. Honor your parents. Don’t kill people. Don’t be unfaithful. Don’t steal things. Don’t lie. Don’t envy. Pretty standard stuff, right? And then there’s the one that says “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it Holy.” It’s not a suggestion.

Most of you that will read this already know that I was raised in a Christian, Sabbath-keeping family. As a child that was raised in a Sabbath-keeping denomination, I used to be very, very annoyed with Sabbath. If you aren’t familiar with that that actually means, I’ll give you a short run-down. Sabbath is from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset, so the list below would start on Friday night. This is what I associated with Sabbath between years of 1993 and 2009.

  1. No watching television on Sabbath. If it’s not VeggieTales or the Prince of Egypt, it’s out.
  2. No playing board games on Sabbath unless they were Bible themed. We did have some.
  3. No disturbing parents’ naps on Sabbath.
  4. No chores on Sabbath (heck yes, finally!)
  5. No spending money on Sabbath.
  6. No birthday parties on Sabbath.
  7. No video games.
  8. *Many people also don’t travel or eat out on Sabbath but we did that all the time (no shame)*

When I was little I didn’t mind all the restrictions, but as a teenager, I started to notice them more. I was home-schooled for five years of my life (grades 5-10) and so I was in a really relaxed environment. An average school day consisted of 2-4 hours of academia, a three mile walk with my family, hours upon hours of writing, drawing, painting, or singing, and then TV and then bed. We also had various activities depending on the day of the week. But on Sabbath we went to Sabbath School, church, and then went home…to nothing. It was the most boring thing ever. I had no reason to nap, because I was never tired. Besides some family drama, which every teenager has, I was mostly stress-free. I felt like the “Day of Rest” was just a requirement for no reason. I saw literally no benefit.

I had a conversation about it with my father once. I expressed to him how Sabbath was just a burden for me. It was more work than it was rest! He said his famous line, “Oh, how I have failed as a father to my children!” (Which he often said in a mocking wail in which he cloaked his true feelings) and then said to me, “Sabbath was never about just not doing anything. Sabbath was about spending time apart from the world and closer to God. Maybe we need to be doing more of that.”

And that’s when it all changed

Just kidding! Honestly, there wasn’t much change in our family life regarding the Sabbath, but it was a statement that I still remember to this day. It really changed when I went off to boarding academy for my junior year of high school. An average day at the academy started at 6 am and ended at 10 pm. Every day was pretty much non-stop. By the time my first Sabbath came at that school, believe you me, I understood. Sabbath is for rest, my friends! Sabbath was suddenly beneficial–no, vital to my body, mind, and soul. On the campus, we welcomed the Sabbath with praises and singing on Friday evening, held church services in the morning (which, by the way, are not so unlike what most denominations do on Sundays) and then close the Sabbath with a “meditation service” (which is just more singing and a devotional thought) before the Saturday night activity. The three services, combined with activities and real opportunities to rest from the busyness of the week, really helped me realize the importance.

For my four years in college, it was much the same. I worked my butt off for six out of seven days, and on day seven, I would take every advantage to rest. Even if I didn’t attend church or services, I would feel closer to Jesus that day. It was a day to enjoy the nice weather, call my parents, hang out with my friends with a guitar and a blanket by the campus duck pond, and realize that God put this day in place because He loves us, not because he wants to burden us.

As an adult, I’ve taken more initiative in making decisions toward Sabbath being a real day of God-given rest. Sabbath being a day of rules doesn’t even make sense. (Like no swimming? What’s up with that?) And as for doing literally nothing, Jesus went out and taught, healed, and socialized with people on Sabbath. I’ve learned that the occasional youth group outing to help the homeless or nursing home visitation, while not “resting” leaves me more refreshed than when I arrived. My favorite Sabbaths are the Sabbaths that I’ve spent on trips with my students, where we commune in nature with guitars and shakers and our voices lifted, and not the ones I’ve spent sleeping literally all day because of the week I’ve had (not that those were not needed Sabbaths, just to clarify.)

All of that has led me to this: I now know that even if I shamefully miss out on my time with God for six days, He has given me the seventh day to spend time with him, and that’s not all.

In fact, this is the important part and the reason I wrote this post right now. It’s important that you know that he is not reaching out to spend time telling us how we failed him this week, or to tell us we have a to-do list that didn’t get done, or even to remind us over and over that the world is ending and we better be ready!

He wants to meet us in peace. He wants us to really rest in him. He wants us to know that no matter what happens, he still love us and forgives us and takes care of us. It’s true that the world will not last forever, and we’re closer to the end than anyone before our generation. That is not the message of this Sabbath. God has called us to live in the here and now and to spread love and joy to others, not fear and stress.

So whether or not you are a Sabbath-keeper, whether you’re a spiritual person, or even if you’re an atheist that’s ready to fight me on his existence, I just want you to know that there’s a God who loves you and doesn’t want you to worry or stress. He wants you to rest and have peace in the midst of the storm. Let him take your anxieties, if only for the next twenty-four hours.

If you’re not sure how to spend time with God, this is my advice. Take some time to call your loved ones or someone you think might be lonely and stuck at home. If you’re angry with somebody, think about what you need to do to make amends with them. If social media and the news is overwhelming you, turn off your phone for a while and turn on some music. Maybe take a nap. Read your Bible or a devotional book or look up some devotions online. God is not only in the Bible or in the sky. He is everywhere, and he can reach you through anything you allow him to.

I’ll leave you with these words of Jesus: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29.